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Keep evolution warning labels out of textbooks, NCSE tells court


KEEP EVOLUTION WARNING LABELS OUT OF TEXTBOOKS, NCSE TELLS COURT


NATIONAL CENTER FOR SCIENCE EDUCATION
SUBMITS AMICUS BRIEF IN FEDERAL COURT
OPPOSING EVOLUTION DISCLAIMERS IN COBB COUNTY, GEORGIA, TEXTBOOKS

Oakland, California, June 10, 2005 -- The National Center for Science Education and People for the American Way submitted an amicus brief filed in support of a recent U.S. District Court decision, Selman v. Cobb County School District, which ruled that the evolution "warning labels" required in Cobb County, Georgia, public school textbooks were unconstitutional. The "friend of the court brief" was filed in the eleventh circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals, in response to an appeal seeking to overturn the Selman decision.

"As the only national organization devoted exclusively to promoting and defending the teaching of evolution in the public schools, NCSE was of course pleased with the Selman decision," commented NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott. "Cobb County's evolution 'warning labels' were bad science and bad pedagogy. They simply lacked any legitimate secular purpose or effect."

In 2002, responding to local creationist protests about the inclusion of evolution in textbooks, the Cobb County School Board mandated that every single biology textbook in the district carry a label describing evolution as "a theory, not a fact." Represented by attorney Michael Manely and the Georgia ACLU, Jeffrey Selman and four other Cobb parents filed suit in federal court. The trial was held in the fall of 2004 in U.S. District Court, with Judge Clarence Cooper presiding.

In a carefully reasoned decision issued in January 2005, Judge Cooper ruled that the evolution disclaimer was unconstitutional because it "convey[s] a message of endorsement of religion," and ordered the stickers to be removed. But the school district decided to appeal the decision, prompting NCSE and PFAW to weigh in.

"Both evolution 'warning labels' and the idea of deprecating evolution as 'a theory, not a fact' are perennially favorite tactics of religiously motivated opponents of evolution," NCSE's Susan Spath explained. "The brief argues that given the history of the antievolutionist movement, the conclusion that the Cobb County 'warning labels' violate the First Amendment's Establishment Clause is inescapable."

The amicus brief submitted by NCSE and PFAW was not alone. Amicus briefs supporting the Selman decision were also submitted by the National Science Teachers Association and the National Association of Biology Teachers; Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the Anti-Defamation League, and the American Jewish Committee; the National Council of Jewish Women and The Interfaith Alliance; the Witherspoon Society and the Clergy and Laity Network; the American Jewish Congress; a coalition of grassroots pro-science organizations, including Georgia Citizens for Integrity in Science Education; and a coalition of fifty-six scientific organizations, including the National Academy of Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

"In light of the relentless assaults on evolution education across the country," NCSE's Scott commented, "the decision in the Selman appeal is especially important. NCSE is proud to have collaborated with PFAW on our amicus brief, and we are confident that the Eleventh Circuit Court will take it seriously."

Contact:
Eugenie C. Scott, Ph.D., (510) 601-7203 x301, scott@ncseweb.org
Susan Spath, Ph.D., (510) 601-7203 x306, spath@ncseweb.org

For the text of the NCSE/PFAW amicus brief, the seven other amicus briefs in support of the Selman decision, and for background on the Selman case, visit http://www.ncseweb.org/selman/index.html.